Thanks to the wide popularity of Anchorman, The Academy Is… opened their set at the Camden, New Jersey 2006 Warped Tour with “Afternoon Delight” and was welcomed with not only the typical, sporadic girly shrills, but a powerful, sing-along crowd. Hours after the Academy boys performed their thirty-minute set, Andy Mrotek — better known as Butcher — told me what it’s like to play the drums for a living and how his life of music came to be.
Why are you called Butcher?
Mrotek: I used to be a butcher.
Really? For how long?
Mrotek: Almost two years.
And then did you quit [your job] to be in a band?
Mrotek: Yeah. I mean I was in a band previous to that (being a butcher) and during that period. The band broke up and I was just a butcher. And then The Academy Is…. came around and asked me [to be in the band] and I was like ‘fuck yeah!’
When you were a butcher, did you want to be in the music scene?
Mrotek: Yeah, I spent four years in a band. When I was a butcher I would try to take some time off [from the music scene]. I mean I still loved [music] — I’d rather watch it and listen to it and re-gather it, rather than [just] find a new band, find a new band, find a new band. Take the time off, deal with a shitty job, realize what I want and sure enough The Academy Is… came around.
Can you remember the first time you realized that music is what you wanted your life to be?
Mrotek: Yeah. Back in second grade I played clarinet for a year and then I didn’t want to do that. I was hyperactive and my mom was like “just play drums” and she got me a drum set. I was like “holy shit, I love this.” And as I grew up I was like, “yeah I want to do this for a living.”
Were you in the marching band in high school?
Mrotek: For a little bit. It was weird — I went to an art school so I had a major. My major was always spatial art and not drumming. I had drumming as a minor. I always did painting or sculpting or sketching.
So art would have been your fall back if it wasn’t music?
Mrotek: Well, originally it was the other way around. I wanted to go to college for art and enrolled. The first day I didn’t even go to class, I just [thought] ‘I don’t even want to do this.’ And I was in a band and not doing the art thing… so I [thought I] guess I’ll do the music thing. I never had a set plan of what I wanted to do, except that I wanted to do art or music. Then I just kind of waited around on the fence, waiting for the right [time]… I never wanted to go to college and get a real job. I was just waiting for the right time and keeping myself out there. And then it pretty much came around.
So who do you think was the most surprised when you made it big?
Mrotek: I guess me ‘cause I don’t even know if we are making it.
Was there anybody who was always like “ehhh, I don’t know about being in a band?”
Mrotek: Oh yeah. I mean my dad was always skeptical. He was the one who got me into music, but he’s also the one who has to help me keep my feet on the ground. So he’s always like yeah its cool — it (being in a band) is not that good. Yeah, he always just busts my chops to keep me in line. Everyone supports now. I guess I’m the one who’s most surprised that I’m actually involved with something that’s doing something and not just being a dreamer.
Is there anybody or anything that you always think of when you get on stage? Like someone you wish could be there or a band you could play with?
Mrotek: Good question. Well, I think about a lot of stuff before I go on stage. As far as the present moment: How many people are watching? Who’s watching on the side of the stage? Who’s never seen us before? Are my drums tuned? I hope my drums are tuned. I mean I think about Dave Grohl and all these amazing musicians that I can’t hold a candle to, but still I draw from those guys, their style. Yeah, a lot of stuff runs through my head. And at the same time nothing. While I’m playing I’m thinking about something else. I’m like never really paying attention to what I’m doing, but its more like an overall awareness of what is going on.
What’s the coolest thing that you’ve ever seen when you’ve looked out into a crowd?
Mrotek: Oh, actually it’s been on this tour. We played in Seattle that has this huge venue that’s a canyon and the seats are cut out of the rock. The main stage is overlooking this huge canyon. So watching the sunset over the canyon while we’re playing was. Any element of nature, if I can see while I’m playing, is really a great thing and it makes me just go crazy.
So if you could play drums for any band ever, or play with anyone, who would you play with?
Mrotek: I do have a — I wouldn’t say guilty pleasure because I’m not guilty about this, but — Death Cab for Cutie is one of my favorite bands and I would like to. I wish I wrote their songs pretty much. I would love to play instruments in that band. I would love to play with them, also. Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters — I’d love to play guitars with them, although we (The Academy Is…) wouldn’t sit too well with them. They’d probably make fun of us the whole time.